"...I felt empowered and more in touch with my true self than I ever have. I was making friends with the beings in my natural surroundings and felt deeply connected to the natural world in a way that brought so much peace and comfort. At the end of the [Seminary of the Wild Earth] I knew I wanted to shift my work in order to help others experience this restored relationship with the earth."
Brief Bio. Award-winning chef, food writer and photographer. Certified life coach and Nature and Forest Therapy guide. AshRod.earth
Tell us a bit about who you are and how you came to this work.
My route to this work has not been linear (as the best paths often aren’t) and it has been guided by curiosity. For nearly 20 years I have worked in some capacity in the food industry. Starting in fast paced restaurants and then shifting to food writing and photography when our family of two (my husband, Gabe, and myself) became a family of five (Baron, 17, Roman, 15, and Ivy 12). I’ve written two cookbooks and my third, which comes out next spring, began as an idea I developed when I was a student going through Seminary of the Wild Earth (SOWE).
During the pandemic I enrolled in SOWE as a member of the second cohort. I wanted to find a community to help me grow in confidence in the voice that was stirring within me. Growing up in the evangelical Christian church I started to question certain beliefs that I had previously thought were fundamental truths. The process of losing and then picking up the pieces of my faith was incredibly disorientating and I found myself finding the Divine and a sense of peace in the natural world. I wanted to explore that more in depth, in a safe yet challenging space. I found it through this program.
At the end of SOWE I felt empowered and more in touch with my true self than I ever have. I was making friends with the beings in my natural surroundings and felt deeply connected to the natural world in a way that brought so much peace and comfort. At the end of the program I knew I wanted to shift my work in order to help others experience this restored relationship with the earth. Immediately after the program ended I went on to become a certified nature and forest therapy guide and then I also went on to study life coaching. Victoria invited me back in as a guide and I am so honored to be able to use my creativity and the skills I learned in my training as a guide for the Seminary of the Wild Earth. I deeply believe that by restoring our relationship with the sacred earth we can bring healing to ourselves and the planet.
What are the lands that raised you, and how has your own connection with the natural world influenced your path?
I live on the sacred traditional land of the Duwamish people in Seattle, WA. On many mornings I can crack my bedroom window and smell the salty air coming off the Salish sea. I’m also a mother of three; Baron, 17 Roman, 15, and Ivy, 12. My husband of nearly 20 years, Gabe, and I love to fly fish, kayak, hike, and forage. We have two dogs, who like to make themselves known during our weekly zoom calls.
There are so many stories I can share of connection with the natural world but one of the most potent to me, and definitely one that led me to this program is my encounter with a particular snake. A near panic attack inducing fear of snakes is in my DNA. My grandmother and my mother would perform what we called their “snake dance” when they encountered one unexpectedly. This wasn’t a ceremonial dance honoring the snake's presence but rather a thrilling leap into the air with an accompanying shriek of terror. I also picked up on this dance.
Several summers back I went on a solo camping trip, a first for me as I grew up with the sense that it’s not safe for women to be alone in the outdoors. On this camping trip I took along the book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd. In the chill of the evening, warmed by the campfire and the blistered tomatoes and steak I had just cooked, I tucked into the book and found words that forever altered my life. In referencing the story in the bible about Eve and the snake, Sue Monk Kidd questioned why in the bible the snake was symbolic of satan while other traditions at the time honored the snake.
“The snake was not maligned or seen as evil but rather symbolized female wisdom, power and regeneration.” Kidd wrote.
The snake as sacred feminine energy, I whisper. Oh shit.
Long before the Bible recorded the story of creation the snake was heralded as a symbol of female empowerment.
Kidd continues: “Why was the snake selected to represent Satan in the origin myth? Could it be that the patriarchal force chose the snake in hopes of diminishing women’s connection to feminine wisdom, power, and regeneration? Was it a way of discrediting the Feminine Divine?”
I knew she was coming.
While reading all about the snake and how she stood not for evil, sin and Satan as I was taught, but rather as sacred feminine energy, wisdom and power I just knew she would make her presence known to me.
The next day she did just that.
While on a hike marked with ancient trees, the smell of pine needles practically simmering in the sun and the cool air coming off the river I saw her right in the middle of my path.
“It’s you!” I said out loud.
Her body stretched nearly the entirety of the trail. Her head lifted just slightly above the earth. She saw me, sensed me and yet she didn’t move.
I smiled broadly, grabbed my phone to take a picture, and continued to stare at her for several moments. In awe and yes, a bit of fear too.
She looked different to me. Still intimidating but I forced myself to reckon with what she represents and faced the reality that this creature that I have feared my entire life also represents my fear of my own power.
While the unraveling and reweaving of my faith has created a tapestry where I trust that my gender does not dictate my worth and my role on this earth I’ve continued to remain timid and at times put off by my own divisiveness. While memories of historic hurts placed on me as a young girl and woman at the hand of the patriarchy ache, I’ve often silenced that pain listening instead to the chorus of voices I’ve heard throughout my life;
“You’re being too sensitive. It could be worse. You’re overreacting. Stop reading too much into it. Assume the best. You have it so good, what do you have to complain about?”
I’ve swallowed those pains more times than I like to admit. I’ve lessened the pain of other women to make the men in my life more comfortable. I have cowered at calling the Divine she while not once questioning God’s male gender throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I’ve cringed at the idea of celebrating goddesses and have fallen in line far too quickly when I was taught that my identity was to be founded in the well-being of my husband and the health, happiness and successes of my children.
My power has scared me. My wisdom has created hysteria within me. I have panicked, tucked my body into a ball making it as small as I can at the site of my own sacred femininity.
Then she showed up. Revealing to me that our enmity ends here.
I refuse to call her evil but instead embrace her as a reminder of my own sacredness. I will not cower at her presence but make her proud as she calls up in me my own wisdom. She teaches me of my own power and I will not run and hide but will celebrate her and her ancestors and I will put an end to the generational fear that limits not only our enjoyment of creation but more importantly it limits us, as women and who the Divine is inviting us to be.
With this new knowledge, I made a vow to the snake and to myself that I will never shirk in the fear of this power. I will welcome seasons of shedding and embrace the snake, the Divine Feminine as she greets me on the path.